Friday, February 6, 2015

Disability issues in manifestos of political parties for Delhi Poll

AAP bats for disabled, others drop the ball

NEW DELHI: There are 2,34,882 disabled people in Delhi according to the 2011 census. And, while there is no exact data on the number of voters in this category, the count of people with disabilities in Delhi above the age of 20 years is 1,74,219.

Yet barring AAP, the other major political parties—BJP and Congress—have been silent about disability in their election manifestos.

According to professor of physiology at University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi University, Dr Satendra Singh, with the political parties engaged in mudslinging, issues of real importance are hardly discussed ahead of polls. "No wonder, no one talked about disability issues," he said.

"In its vision document, BJP is silent on the concerns of persons with disabilities. We were also hurt by the party staying mum when the Goa chief minister called us 'God's mistake'. The central government is busy restructuring and renaming its ministries, creating a department of disability affairs, but giving a long rope to those making such disgraceful comments," said Singh, who himself suffers from disability.

The Congress manifesto, too, has no mention of the word disability. This is the same party which was in a hurry to pass the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities Bill via ordinance route. "Where has that passion gone now?" Singh said.

"Disability is not a priority for political parties because they don't see disabled people as a potential vote bank and think disability is only a medical problem. Their idea is that if you offer Braille or a hearing aid to a disabled person the problem is solved. They are unable to imagine it is a social, political and cultural problem as much as a physical and mental issue. Moreover, there is no active presence of disabled people in the parties. Those present don't like to talk of disability politics," explains Hemachandran Karah, assistant professor at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

The AAP manifesto, however, has a four-point action plan for the disabled—expansion of the definition of disability and implementation of 3% reservation in jobs and educational institutions, ensuring education for children with disabilities, establishing a special government body to protect the rights of people with disabilities and making public places, educational institutions and recreational areas accessible.

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